Some people crack videogames' copy protections in order to pirate them. Others
simply like to avoid the hassle of inserting a CD. One company used a crack to quell its customers' growing outrage.
Ubisoft, it seems, used a piracy ‘Scene’-released No-CD crack
away certain support issues, like the lag time between patches available for
the commercially-released and Direct2Drive versions of its hit PC game, Rainbow
Six: Vegas 2.
Some further explanation is needed: Direct2Drive is a legitimate
videogame-download service owned by IGN Entertainment. Users pay retail-ish
prices to download videogames straight to their hard drive, in order to avoid
the hassle of picking a game up at a store. The lack of physical discs in this
kind of system makes anti-piracy enforcement difficult, so Direct2Drive uses an
online activation system that works by wrapping itself around the game code to
ensure the game’s legitimacy.
As a side effect of this system, games sold via Direct2Drive
oftentimes cannot be used with patches released for equivalent retail versions,
as Direct2Drive needs to publish the patch in a way that’s compatible with its
system; usually this results in a lag time for Direct2Drive users lasting a
couple of weeks.
Returning to the topic of Rainbow Six, it appears that
Direct2Drive users waiting patiently for version 1.03 –
released last March, according to TorrentFreak
– have understandably grown restless, as a Direct2Drive version of this patch has yet to
appear. Compounding this frustration is the fact that 1.03 adds desirable new
features, including a handful of new play modes. Users, ever impatient, worked
out solutions on their own and created a mess of third-party hacks and
As a result of the commotion, it appears that an Ubisoft
employee found a fix of his or her own, and uploaded a small patch to Ubisoft’s
support site. But here’s the catch: the “solution” provided was a small no-CD
crack – the same one released by warez group RELOADED some time earlier.
The fact was confirmed by screenshots of the patch file
loaded into a hex editor, where users located RELOADED’s signature embedded within
Particularly puzzling is the fact that as Rainbow Six: Vegas
2’s publisher, Ubisoft has access to the original program code. Why lift
something from the scene instead?
Ubisoft community manager Ubi.Vigil had little to say to
address users – many of which seem to dither between amused and “righteous”
fury – beyond implying the aforementioned:
“We're looking into
this further as this was not the UK Support team that posted this, however if
it is an executable that does not need the disc I doubt it has come from an
external source. There'd be very little point doing so when we already own the original
Since then, the patch has been pulled from Ubisoft’s support
site and, for most purposes, has disappeared from the ‘net. Worse, an official
version 1.03 patch for Direct2Drive customers does not yet appear to be
The official company line is that “copy protection
circumvention methods … [are] in direct conflict with Ubisoft’s policies,” and
I’m sure that a support person in Ubisoft-land is, sadly, now out of a job.